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  • April 12, 2014

The Empathy Vacuum:

Exposed to the entire spec­trum of human enthu­si­asms, it’s basi­cally impos­si­ble not to judge. Our empa­thy over­loads and gives up and we sit, star­ing at the screen aghast, that some­body, some­where might actu­ally believe that what they’re doing is OK, is accept­able, is even appro­pri­ate.

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  • January 10, 2014

Google’s deci­sion to acti­vate (and turn on by default) a “fea­ture” that allows any­one to send you email via Google Plus has sparked some con­tro­versy.

The prob­lem with the free email ser­vices most of us use is that vir­tu­ally all of them are offered pro­vided by com­pa­nies whose main inter­ests aren’t email. In other words, Google, Microsoft, and Apple all offer “free” email in order to get you into their ecosys­tems. Gmail exists so Google can sell your eye­balls to adver­tis­ers. Like all of Apple’s soft­ware, iCloud exists so Apple can con­trol every aspect of an iOS or Mac user’s expe­ri­ence.1 Hotmail and Outlook​.com (and what­ever other crap Microsoft is doing these days) exist so that Microsoft can keep more peo­ple reliant on Office and Windows (and what­ever other crap Microsoft is doing these days).

And that’s the thing: Their goal isn’t to cre­ate awe­some email that meets users’ needs. Sure, inso­far as cre­at­ing awe­some email helps get more peo­ple into their ecosys­tem, then I sup­pose cre­at­ing an awe­some email sys­tem is part of what they do. But don’t ever for­get that they have a big­ger goal in mind. When it comes right down to it, Google is obsessed with get­ting peo­ple into Google+, and they don’t even blink when pri­or­i­tiz­ing their needs (inte­gra­tion with their social net­work) over most users’ (the abil­ity to receive mes­sages only from those who’ve received my email address from me).2

As long as we use email that’s pro­vided by some­one who sees email as a means to achiev­ing their own (non-email related) goals, then this is going to keep hap­pen­ing.

We can bitch and com­plain all we want, but here’s the thing: As long as we use email that’s pro­vided by some­one who sees email as a means to achiev­ing their own (non-email related) goals, then this is going to keep hap­pen­ing. That’s the cost of “free” email.

I want a ser­vice that pro­vides email that’s clean, ele­gant, and easy-to-use. I want it to be pri­vate, secure, and safe. I want it to be stan­dards-based, by which I mean I want it to work well with my exist­ing devices and sys­tems as well as with the ones that I don’t have or that don’t exist yet. And I want as much con­trol as pos­si­ble. I want con­trol over my pri­vacy set­tings, over the inter­face, over the imple­men­ta­tion of new fea­tures, over… every­thing.

And for that, I’d gladly pay a few bucks a month. Or even ten.


  1. Steve Jobs once said, “I’ve always wanted to own and con­trol the pri­mary tech­nol­ogy in every­thing we do.” Over the years, Apple loos­ened up a lit­tle as Jobs and Co. real­ized that they could gain more by giv­ing users a lit­tle bit more con­trol. But it’s pretty clear that the brain trust in Cupertino is still pretty com­mit­ted to the idea that the only way you can guar­an­tee users a prod­uct that “just works” is to main­tain as much con­trol as pos­si­ble over every aspect of both hard­ware and soft­ware (includ­ing cloud-based soft­ware and ser­vices). And since con­sumers seem to like prod­ucts that “just work” (Lord knows I do), Apple makes a lot of money as a result of this for­mula. (back to foot­note in text)

  2. Marco Arment says it best:

    Google’s lead­er­ship, threat­ened by the atten­tion and adver­tis­ing rel­e­vance of Facebook, is bet­ting the com­pany on Google+ at all costs.

    Google+ adop­tion and usage is not meet­ing their expec­ta­tions. Facebook con­tin­ues to dom­i­nate. It’s not work­ing. They’re des­per­ate.

    Google will con­tinue to sell out and poten­tially ruin its other prop­er­ties to juice Google+ usage. These efforts haven’t worked very well: they juice the num­bers just enough that Google will keep doing this, yet will keep need­ing to do more.

    I don’t like Google+ very much, and I have no inter­est in being dragged into using it. Gmail belongs to Google, and if Google wants to build Gmail and Google+ into each other, then that’s Google’s pre­rog­a­tive. And find­ing a new email provider is my pre­rog­a­tive. And hon­estly: As long as Google’s behav­ior doesn’t have a notice­able effect on how many peo­ple use Gmail (and/or how much they use it), then they have no rea­son to stop. (back to foot­note in text)

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  • May 23, 2013

googlemapsnewLast night I got my invite to play with the new Google Maps (desk­top edi­tion).

Initial Reactions:

  • It’s kinda slow.
    (For the record: I’m using Safari on a dual-core i7 MacMini with dual SATAIII SSDs in a striped array and 16GB of mem­ory, and my inter­net band­width is above-aver­age.)
  • The inter­face has a clean/simple yet beau­ti­ful design. The map itself dom­i­nates the entire screen, which I sup­pose is how it should be.
  • By min­i­miz­ing the pres­ence of the user inter­face, there are less but­tons and entry fields, which means it’s harder to use if you’re unfa­mil­iar. It makes me won­der if the Maps team hasn’t over-min­i­mal­ized to the point where it isn’t obvi­ous to users how they should inter­act with the ser­vice.
  • Thankfully, the “tour” that intro­duces you to the new prod­uct does a decent job of induct­ing users into the new inter­face par­a­digm. (I’m not sure that’s a good thing. To add a twist to a Jobs-ism: If it needs a user inter­face “tour” then it’s not intu­itive enough. Not sure if that’s the case here, but it could be.)

All-in-all, it’s a step in the right direc­tion.

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  • May 15, 2013

ATT Free Msg: Your data usage has reached 3GB this month. Using more than 3GB in future billing cycles will result in reduced speeds. You can use Wi-Fi to help avoid reduced speeds. Visit www​.att​.com/​d​a​t​ainfo or call 866–344-7584 for more info.

(received by text mes­sage from my wire­less car­rier)

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  • May 15, 2013
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  • March 22, 2013

Nice use of video by a non-profit. I’m sure it wasn’t cheap to pro­duce, but prob­a­bly didn’t cost as much as you’d think.

Videoconference between Confirmation class and class­mate in London. Technology helps stu­dents cross oceans with­out even try­ing.

Smarter Stand is my friend Dotan’s project on Kickstarter. Simple, bril­liant, insanely use­ful.

Check it out.

Today, a new orga­ni­za­tion called B’nai Mitzvah Revolution announced itself to the world.

I’ve been priv­i­leged to serve as the web­mas­ter/tech-guru on the project. Working with the team behind BMR — notably the co-direc­tors and their col­leagues at HUC-JIR/RHSOE/ECE and the URJ — has been an amaz­ingly ful­fill­ing and insight­ful expe­ri­ence. I’m thank­ful to Isa for giv­ing me the oppor­tu­nity.

Check the site out. I’m incred­i­bly proud of it (though, truth be told, a lot of the con­cep­tu­al­iza­tion and tweak­ing came from the entire team).

Viva la rev­o­lu­tion!

For par­tic­i­pants in the iCenter pre­sen­ta­tion how-to that I taught today, I’ve uploaded two files:

• Extensive notes, as promised.
Presentation Primer — Notes & Sources.pdf

• My slides. (They’ll only make sense if you were there, nat­u­rally.)
Presentation Primer — Slides.pdf

Seth Godin:

Steve devoted his pro­fes­sional life to giv­ing us (you, me and a bil­lion other peo­ple) the most pow­er­ful device ever avail­able to an ordi­nary per­son. Everything in our world is dif­fer­ent because of the device you’re read­ing this on.

What are we going to do with it?

In my role as direc­tor of con­gre­ga­tional learn­ing at Temple Isaiah, I’ve been work­ing on ways to effec­tively use tech­nol­ogy to improve the learn­ing expe­ri­ence in the reli­gious school class­room. This post is the first in a series on ideas to make it hap­pen.

What is it?

AppletvhandApple TV is a box you con­nect (via HDMI) to a tv or pro­jec­tor, and you log it onto your wire­less net­work. Once it’s con­nected, the Apple TV can play YouTube and Vimeo videos and stream Netflix con­tent. Even bet­ter: Using a tech­nol­ogy called AirPlay, it can play music, videos, and photo slideshows from any com­puter (Mac or PC, as long as it has iTunes installed) or any iOS Device (iPad, iTouch, iPhone) on the same net­work. Also, cer­tain iOS apps take advan­tage of the same tech­nol­ogy to have video from the device (like a news video from the CNN app, or a radio seg­ment from the NPR app) dis­play via the Apple TV up on the attached projector/television.

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  • April 3, 2011

…since before it was cool to be a Mac guy:

This is what we believe.
Technology alone is not enough.
Faster, thin­ner, lighter…
Those are all good things.
But when tech­nol­ogy gets out of the way,
Everything becomes more delight­ful,
Even mag­i­cal.
That’s when you leap for­ward.
That’s when you end up with some­thing…
Like this.

That’s an even bet­ter man­i­festo than this one.

Update: There’s more.

If you ask a par­ent,
They might call it intu­itive.
If you ask a musi­cian,
They might call it inspir­ing.
To a doc­tor,
It’s ground­break­ing.
To a CEO,
It’s pow­er­ful.
To a teacher,
It’s the future.
If you ask a child,
She might call it magic.
And if you asked us…
We’d say it’s just get­ting started.